Monday, August 23, 2010

Books That Save Us Money

If you only have a few cookbooks, you choose them wisely.  At least that's what I've noticed from my friends who have about 5-10 cookbooks.  My mother in law has about 10 and she uses every one of them regularly.  I'm one of those funny people that loves cookbooks, so I pick them up at book sales for 50 cents and garage sales for a quarter.  I'll try a few recipes and if they're good then I'll keep the cookbook.  If my family doesn't like them, I donate the cookbook and pass it on.  There are a handful of cookbooks, though, that I love and recommend hands down!  

One of them is a little book that I found in a used bookstore in Durango, Colorado, 14 years ago.  It was titled Substituting Ingredients: An A to Z Kitchen Reference by Becky Sue Epstein and Hilary Dole Klein.  I've used it a lot over the years.  Particularly, the substitutions for unsweetened chocolate (1 sq = 3 Tbsp. cocoa plus 1 Tbsp butter) and for milk and cream.  When I need to know how much lemon juice to substitute for a medium lemon, I open up this book (since the bottle doesn't say anymore!).  Over the years, I've added other substitutions that I've found in magazines to my old copy of this book.  The cover is falling off and needs a new layer of packing tape.  It has been well used and loved.

I ran across this book on Amazon a few weeks ago and discovered that an updated edition was published in June of this year.  I just received a copy of it today!  So, I pulled my old copy out and sat for an hour with them comparing them.  The biggest question I pondered as a book buyer is:  is it worth it to buy a new updated edition or should I save money and buy the older edition for $5 less?  In the case of this book, my recommendation is "yes."  

There were some minor complaints I had with the old edition.  Often spices were listed as substitutions, but not with an amount.  There also wasn't much explanation on substituting different types of ingredients.  But, I still loved the little book because I had never seen anything else like it.

My complaints with old edition have been fixed!  There is a lot more information, but don't be deceived by the number of pages.  It may have 191 pages, but it is a small book.  The font, though, is easy to read--it isn't too small.  It is a black and white cookbook with the font bolded and italicized in ways that make it very easy to see the information you want quickly--which is important in a pinch!  Many herb substitutions now have amount equivalencies which will be very helpful.  The old information that I found worked is still there, but a few have been deleted.  Single Acting Baking Powder was deleted--because it essentially isn't sold anymore.  The baking powder you buy in the store is double-acting.  But, products that aren't used as much as they were in the past like self-rising flour are still included.  There is also now a quick reference list at the back that you could put a post-it tab on and turn to quickly when you need to pull it out.  

Do these substitutions work?  Yes, I know they do because I've used them before.  Epstein has added a few new ones, but I have no doubt that they will work because the old ones did and her new ones agree with what I've tried on my own.

Can this book save you money?  Yes.  One of the first substitutions that saved me money (besides not having to buy any more squares of expensive baking chocolate) was for tomato paste.  So many recipes call for 1 Tbsp of tomato paste.  What do you do with the rest of the can that you just opened?  There is a substitution in this cookbook that I've used for years, but I won't ruin it by giving away all the books secrets.  It is nice not to waste a whole can of paste anymore!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Sourcebooks.

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